Housework makes you happy

karinlJune 11, 2012

I have always been a messy person, and I distinctly remember that when I was young, I excused it on the basis that "when I am on my deathbed I'm not going to wish I'd spent more time doing housework!"

At 53 I am not yet on my deathbed but a lot closer to it, and my habits haven't changed that much. And to my chagrin my primary wish as I look back on my life is that I had spent more time doing housework!

In aggregate, I would say it is the perpetual feeling of an incomplete to-do list, the constant burden of "I should do this," the feeling of inadequacy that comes from never conquering the apparently simple task of keeping a house clean and tidy, and then the anxiety/shame (depending on how bad the house is) about having visitors (or outright not being able to have them)... that together make me wish I had done better at this.

I realize this isn't an "organizing" post per se, but being organized and being clean are closely intertwined for me. I have always, I think, figured that I will take the time to clean "once I am organized" and also, it is harder to clean a disorganized environment. If you have stuff standing/lying around, you can't clean without moving it, and putting it back where it doesn't belong seems like such a stupid thing to do.

Then we went and aggravated my problem by moving into an old house that we half-renovated and ...have ...not ...yet ...finished so that we add materials, tools, and indecision to the mix. Why wash a window you are going to replace? Why designate a space for materials that you are going to install and use up? And so it goes, into the spiral, generating bad feelings and marital stress that can eat a person up.

So this article validates a lot for me, although it's not precisely of scientific quality. I hope someone else gets a bit of a lift from it!

Karin L

Here is a link that might be useful: Housework can make you happy

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I'm not surprised by that article. I find housework very therapeutic myself.

I enjoy the results, yes, but I also like that it is one area where I can get a feeling of control and see immediate results. So, maybe it's selfish in a way, too.

Many things in life we cannot control and just have to accept, but by golly, I can control how clean my house is. Although many of my life's works will take years or decades to accomplish (child raising, paying off debt, establishing a career, etc.), a clean house can be had in a matter of hours.

When I am putting the finishing touches on my housecleaning, I feel very satisfied--a feeling of "there, it's done!" that I rarely get to have that feeling in other areas of my life. It would make me sadder, I am sure, not to have that feeling regularly.

Don't take this to mean my house is perfect--with four kids and a bunch of pets, perfection is a pipedream ( a lonely pipedream, too!). But the basics are usually covered and there are few days I'd be mortified if people stopped by.

Why wash a window I am going to replace? Because living in a house with clean windows is one thing I can accomplish, even while remodeling decisions go unmade, spouses don't complete projects, etc.

It is definitely easier with less stuff--I am always editing my stuff and want to shrink it even more this summer. But it also works to put all the stuff in the garage and just don't go in there! ;-)

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 8:31PM
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I also think it is therapeutic to clean, I feel good after. I have always kept a clean home and mostly an organized one. When you get it cleaned, it takes a lot less work to keep it that way. I was dreadfully embarrassed if someone came to visit and it was not picked up. That motivated me to keep it neat, plus I was so proud of my new home and enjoyed cleaning, cooking and being a responsible adult. When we sell a home it is almost like new except for some nail holes, well probably a lot of nail holes. LOL I had a plumber tell me, "Mam, I have to tell you these are the cleanest bathrooms I have ever seen". Coming from a plumber I think I get an A+.

Now my sister is another story, she was a slob when she was raising her kids, all 4 of her children are slobs, dirty panties all over the bathroom floor. The oldest married a guy who would not put up with it, so she did it keep it decent for company.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 11:53AM
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This is a really profound observation.

"In aggregate, I would say it is the perpetual feeling of an incomplete to-do list, the constant burden of "I should do this," the feeling of inadequacy that comes from never conquering the apparently simple task of keeping a house clean and tidy, and then the anxiety/shame (depending on how bad the house is) about having visitors (or outright not being able to have them)... that together make me wish I had done better at this. "

Thanks, KarinL!

Off to read the article!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 6:17PM
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It is profound--I have more than one friend who can't have people over because of the clutter/messiness of their home, or because walls have been ripped out and not replaced, etc. I always feel bad for them because I see the anxiety behind that state AND the anxiety it causes. It's a vicious cycle.

I used to think that if they could experience the positive feelings that come from having their home look the way they want it to, they would realize how good it feels and never turn back. But on the occasions when I've helped friends whip their homes into shape, it always reverts back pretty quickly, so apparently that "Everything is ship-shape" feeling doesn't give them the same positive feeling it gives me.

My friends are very hard workers in other areas, so I know it's not a laziness problem. To be honest, after knowing three of these gals for more than a decade, I think the root issue for some is that they are so perfectionistic they can't work on details of an overall imperfect setting, and for others that they don't really, in their heart of hearts, feel that they deserve a lovely home, so they don't prioritize it.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 8:07PM
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Housework never makes me happy.

I am one of those born organized people, and I have worked hard to declutter. We are now a one-in-one-out family.

But, I never cared for cleaning.

Fortunately, when your house is clutter free and organized, it LOOKS a lot cleaner that it actually is.

I DO clean, but there is no joy, not like there is for organizing!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 10:12PM
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Hi Karin,

Reading your post made wonder if you know about FlyLady. This site was started by one woman who was living in CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) because her house was embarrassingly messy. She now has an international following who seek motivation and routines to keep up with their homes. It starts simply with the kitchen sink and eventually goes through the entire house. Everything happens in manageable steps -- not an avalanche of advice. If you go to her web site, click on "Getting Started" in the upper right side of the homepage. Then click on the graphic for "FlyLady TV".

I am not religious about following all her methods but I do some of them like making the bed every day, doing dinner dishes right away and keeping the kitchen and bathrooms under control every day, getting to the laundry before the dryer dings a second time and folding and putting it all away immediately (my laundry is in the center of the house and this is not hard. After living with garage laundry that could only be reached via the front door, my tiny laundry closet is a dream come true.) Her message is delivered in an upbeat way and her methods work.

Good luck with it to you and anyone who gives it a try!

Cross stitch

Here is a link that might be useful: FkyLady video #1

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 4:36AM
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Thanks for these thought-provoking responses. It is so interesting to hear from people who are completely different from oneself - I think everyone can learn. Some of my tidy friends have some emotional messes that I don't have :-) But overall there is no question that a messy or dirty home has emotional consequences as well that are not beneficial!

Cross stitch, I do know about Flylady and tried to sign on, but the volume of emails snowed me under and I had to quit. But the idea was sound, and I would say it forms the basis of the strides I have made in conquering the house.

Certainly it helped to actually put housework on my agenda rather than expect that I was somehow just going to do it autonomously when the rest of my important things were done for the day.

Leafy, I have to tell you that you have nailed me to the wall with your descriptions of why your friends do not succeed at tidiness. Both apply to me very well, even though they seem on the surface, to be too contradictory to exist in the same person. My husband and I have a new motto for renovation - 90% is good enough - and I have to apply that to cleaning as well.

One foot in front of the other...

Karin L

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 5:45PM
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Karin, I also discontinued the FlyLady emails for the same reason you described. But I kept up with the some of the program. I thought there were various levels of communication one can select on that site. Don't remember now since that was about 2 years back.

I find one self-imposed rule is to have a place in the house for everything we own. Then work religiously to return things to their places. I try to turn around every time I leave a room and grab three things to put away. It's remarkable how much neater the house is when I keep this up.

Good luck with doing what feels right for you. Gotta tell you, I currently have a housekeeper every other Thursday for 4 hours. That is just what I need since she does many things that are either too much for me or I really dislike. Like the floors. I'm 67 and really hate vacuuming and getting down on the floor. This week she had surgery and we are on our own. As I was cleaning the kitchen counters, DH appeared out of his office with the vacuum cleaner. He did all the floors! Then helped me change the bed linens. After that I did the bathrooms with a smile on my face. It really helps to make it a team effort. We celebrated finishing with a quick lunch at the sandwich place around the corner.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 7:01PM
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I'm another who doesn't enjoy housework but I also have a certain intolerance level to dirt and mess. I grew up in a very messy disorganised house so I can only handle a certain amount of that before I start to really stress out. My big problem is that I do a lot of diy projects on our fixer upper house and between work etc I find it hard to fit it all in and keep up. Usually when I'm in the middle of a project which might take weeks or longer, the housework takes a backseat and then I start feeling overwhelmed because the house starts getting out of control so I either have to lose my momentum in my project and start doing housework catchup or I keep going and then feel almost overwhelmed because I can't keep up with the housework at the same time.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 6:53AM
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Karin, I can easily see how those two root causes exist in the same person, and in fact I think in the cases of my friends they do, too. I like your 90% motto. My mantra during times of perfectionism-fighting stress is "Done is better than perfect", which is the same thing.

re: FlyLady, I could not keep up, either. But the thing I learned from it that has been so helpful to me is using the timer. My perfectionist side wants a room entirely clean: closet organized and tidy, every single thing put away, nothing in the room that doesn' belong, floors cleaned, stuff dusted,etc. Oh wait, the curtains need washed .... Well, who has time for all that? Not me! So the tendency is to just not start a process I can't "finish".

Using the timer got me in the habit of both racing to "beat the clock" and making it okay to only spend however many minutes on a room. 15 minutes is plenty for everything but the kitchen right after a big meal prep. The closet may not be perfect, the dusting may not be done, the curtains are certainly not washed, but it's "done" and so it's better than perfect but un-done.

I will eternally be grateful to FlyLady for the timer.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 4:08PM
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I signed up for Flylady once, but those emails were too much. And some of her rules "Wear lace-up shoes". Well, maybe my slip-ons feel better. So I dropped out. I know her methods work for her and probably some others. I know "how" to clean. I know how to do laundry,dishes,wash a floor, vacuum, clean a bathtub and toilet, etc. But I have trouble with clutter. I have many interests and I get too many magazines. Cooking, womens mags, gardening, mostly. And I hate to throw magazines out. A couple things that have helped me: Online banking, clean my cat litter box every simgle day, keep laundry under control. When a room or area gets overwhelmed with clutter, remove five things a day. Put them away in a proper permanent "home" or get rid of them-throw out or donate. Once in a while, I grab a bunch of magazines I'm finished reading, and I drop them at a doctors office or the laundromat for others to take. EXcess clothing gets donated. Anything "good" like items of furniture or appliances can be given away on Craigslist or Freecycle. I occasionally go back to Flylady net and look at her "daily" missions. I may follow for a few days. I've also had professional cleaning help. I called in Merrymsaids once. The woman they sent did a great job but it was expensive. My husband is disabled ad We've hired a home health aide three afternoons a week. She cares for DH and does light housework. She'll clean a bathroom or bedroom while she's here. It all helps.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 9:26AM
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jannie, if you come clean my house, I'll declutter yours!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 3:20PM
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Trancegemini: another "story of my life!"

Karin L

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 1:45PM
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Cleaning and decluttering make me happy. In my job I work on multi year projects that can be very frustrating. I love the immediate results I get from cleaning something. I can see something DONE in a short time!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 7:21PM
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"Trancegemini: another "story of my life!"

Karin L"

Karin it sounds like we have the same problem. If only the house would keep itself clean then maybe I could get on with my diy and things would eventually fall into place! It really is frustrating though trying to get it all done so I know what you mean.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 5:52AM
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I subscribe to Flylady. I just get one email a day - it contains everything in one email. I don't always get to reading it but when I'm in the mood, I will go back and read the ones I've missed. Especially the "morning musing".

I use and love the timer as well. I also like her decluttering methods. I think the lace up shoes idea works - I always feel more ready to work in my sneakers than sandals. My problem is sticking to it every day. There are so many things to focus on in life. You have to practice her routines and I think it eventually gets ingrained. My MIL is a born organized person. She naturally does a lot of thethings that flylady suggests so I think that is proof that it's a good system.

I always just feel overwhelmed. My house is big and so many rooms have closets filled with "stuff". It's hard enough to keep up with laundry, cooking, and life without having to go through closets, drawers, the attic, and basement. I think the key is to do your regular tidying up everyday and then set the timer and spend a half hour each day cleaning out clutter.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 3:53PM
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I washed windows in my house Sunday, and it was highly satisfying. We remodeled the kitchen over the summer, so in addition to a season's worth of crud on the outsides, there was construction grime on the inside. I truly enjoyed sitting on the couch and admiring the view through sparkling clean windows! And it felt like part of completing the renovation - I still have a few areas that need cleaning, and I'm not going to feel "done" with the project until those are finished too.

Admittedly, if I had had ANYTHING else to do, I would have let the windows go.

There is satisfaction in a job like mine, where the results are obvious. If I washed windows every other week, it wouldn't be as much fun.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2013 at 1:23PM
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Quote: "It is profound--I have more than one friend who can't have people over because of the clutter/messiness of their home, or because walls have been ripped out and not replaced, etc. I always feel bad for them because I see the anxiety behind that state AND the anxiety it causes. It's a vicious cycle."

I'd just like to make a suggestion. If you have a friend that also has a messy home, you should both spend a day in her home and a day in your home cleaning and organizing. My cousin and I did this, and having another person there with you really pushes you to keep going until it is done.

I rearranged my home -- turned my formal dining into an office, reorganized my kitchen cabinets and pantry, and cleaned out all 3 of my kids' bedrooms. My cousin's house was in MUCH worse shape -- we literally emptied her entire home on her front lawn and only moved back in what she and her 2 girls were using on a day to day basis.....transformed their life.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 12:22AM
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